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Holiday message the same in any language
First United Methodist's event features an international flavor
1201christmas1 mja
The Norman Brothers perform Sunday evening at First United Methodist Church during the 12th annual “Christmas is One Language” multicultural concert. After the event, visitors were invited into the church’s great room for international food and fellowship.

Churches everywhere were holding "Hanging of the Green" ceremonies Sunday night, but many likely didn’t have quite the international feel as the one observed at First United Methodist Church in Gainesville.

The church co-sponsored the 12th annual "Christmas is One Language" concert, featuring participants from a variety of faiths and cultural backgrounds, all celebrating in songs, readings and symbols the imminent arrival of Christ.

"It is our privilege to provide the meeting place and act as host for this multicultural concert," said the Rev. Steve Winter, executive pastor at the Thompson Bridge Road church. "This is something we look forward to."

Hundreds of people poured into the church’s sanctuary for the event, which also was sponsored by the Gainesville Multicultural Committee, Jacobs Media, Matthews Printing and The Times.

Corinne Oviedo, an internationally acclaimed Latin singer, highlighted this year’s concert.

She came to Gainesville earlier this year for a performance, but because the show happened on a day when storms tore through Hall County, many people weren’t able to see her show.

Oviedo performed "Blanca Navidad," "Noche de Paz," and the ever-familiar "Feliz Navidad."

The concert also included the Angelic Voices of St. John Baptist, the First United Methodist Adult Handbell Choir, the Norman Brothers, the Jeff Etienne Family and the Sugar Hill Latter Day Saints Choir.

Plus, children from the Gainesville and Hall County school systems performed together.

Enrique Montiel, chairman of the multicultural committee, also sang "Ave Maria/O Holy Night."

The event also featured the Ballet Mexicano de Lupita Sosa and altar servers from St. Michael Catholic Church in Gainesville.

In addition to several languages spoken and sung, the event also featured international students from Brenau University as greeters and international foods as post-event refreshments.

"Our goal in the community is to showcase the diversity we’re blessed with in Gainesville and Hall County," Montiel said to the audience at the beginning of the concert.

Kevin and Tracey Bales attended the event with their daughters, 8-year-old Britney and 5-year-old Mallary, to see their daughter, Robyn, a fifth-grader, perform as part of the children’s choir.

"I didn’t realize (the event) was going to be this big," Tracey Bales said.

Likewise, Tony Morgan’s wife, Linda, was performing as part of the Sugar Hill Latter Day Saints Choir.

"This is a good thing to do," he said of Sunday night’s event.